It's getting closer now, the nerves are starting to jangle that bit more for players and supporters alike. As Galway and Waterford is such a novel pairing, neutrals are also getting caught up in the excitement ahead of hurling's biggest day.

To continue that theme of a shared involvement in Sunday's final, we think it's fitting to explore all things Galway and Waterford. Yes, both counties touch the sea and both Salthill and Tramore are well known seaside destinations. But there's a lot more to the respective lands of the Tribes and the Déise.

The Central Statistic Office was the obvious place to start my research. Below are the key findings from Census 2016:

CITY ORIGINS

Eyre Square in Galway city centre

Galway City originally formed from a small fishing village located in the area near the Spanish Arch called ‘The Claddagh’ where the River Corrib meets Galway Bay. Galway later became a walled town in the year 1232 after the territory was captured by the Anglo Normans lead by Richard De Burgo.

The town walls, some sections of which can be seen today near the Spanish Arch, were constructed circa 1270. A charter was granted in 1396 by Richard II which transferred governing powers to 14 merchant families, known locally as the 14 tribes of Galway. 

Bubonic plague was introduced into the city by a Spanish ship in 1649 and killed at least 3,700 of its inhabitants and forced many Galway residents to abandon the city temporarily.

Reginald’s Tower

The City of Waterford has strong links with the Vikings. The name Waterford itself is believed to derive from the old Norse word ‘Vedrarfjiordr’ and in what is known as the Viking Triangle you will find a number of interesting museums; Reginald’s Tower which has an exhibition that displays a superb collection of historic and archaeological artefacts, The Bishops Palace built in 1743 by renowned architect Richard Castle and the Medieval Museum which includes numerous well preserved medieval structures, including the beautiful Chorister’s Hall.

By the way, Waterford is Ireland's oldest city. 

CRYSTAL CLEAR

They have been making crystal in Waterford since 1783 when the Penrose family started the business. Their vision was to "create the finest quality crystal for drinking vessels and objects of beauty for the home", something which is still synonymous with the Waterford brand to this day.

As with a lot of buisinesses, there were bumps in the road and there was no production of glass in Waterford for nearly a century. In the 1950s a small factory was established in Ballytruckle, just over a mile from the site of the original Penrose factory.

Thirty expert glass blowers from Europe came to Waterford and trained the Irish apprentices in the art. 

The 1960’s saw Waterford Crystals fortunes begin to soar as they began to sell directly to stores worldwide with the United States being one of their largest markets. In 1973, the company completed the plant in Kilbarry which totaled 425,000 feet, at the time the largest manufacturing unit of its type worldwide.

The company continued to prosper until the late 1980’s but it was at this point in time where things started to go awry due to the declining US dollar, falling demand and rising costs of business.

The brand received a much needed cash injection in 1990 with the arrival of new investors who still saw huge potential. This decade saw Waterord Crystal introduce the Marquis brand and began to utilise celebrity endorsements such as their partnership with John Rocha and Jasper Conran.

The biggest moment in terms of marketing for the company was to come during the Millennium countdown in Times Square, New York where 1.2 billion people watched the Waterford Crystal designed and produced crystal bowl being lowered.

The economic downturn caused the company to go into receivership with the announcement coming on the 30th of January 2009. A year later, an agreement was made between Waterford City Council and WWRD Group Holdings Ltd. to open a new manufacturing and retail facility in the middle of Waterford which gave a much needed boost to the brand but also the city.

SEPTEMBER IS OYSTER TIME

Galway is synonomus with Festivals, whether it's the the Racing or the Arts in July or the Oyster Festivals in September. Regarding the latter, well it stages the World Oyster Opening Championships. Oyster openers from all over the world will converge on the city with their eye on the title.

The most oysters opened or 'shucking' in one minute is 39 and was achieved by Patrick McMurray from Canada. His feat is documented in the Guinness Book of Records.

Sweden's Johan Malm is the current world champion. He just got the better of Ireland’s Michael Moran, with former champion Anti Lepik of Estonia in third place. This year's winner will be crowned att he Galway Oyster Seafood Festival on Saturday 23 September. 

So how do you open an oyster?

CEOIL AGUS CRAIC

In terms of a 'party' atmosphere Galway does have more going for it and in 2020 will be the 'European Capital of Culture. That said, Waterford with its 'Summer at Theatre Royal' from June to September offers much in terms of song, dance, comedy and satire.

In October, the 'Imagine Arts Festival', now incorporates the 'Waterford Writers Weekend', while November-December sees 'Winterval', a Festival that lights up the city and also includes a Christmas Market and Santa's Grotto.

Following on from the Galway Arts Festival, the city's famous race meeting takes place over seven days at the end of July/early August at Ballybrit. Over 140,000 people attended the event in 2017. In 1979, 300,000 were present at the track to see Pope John Paul II. 

Almost as famous as Ballybrit is ' Macnas' a performance-based outfit whose parades are full of much colour and spectacle. Founded in 1986, they form the centre-piece of the Halloween, St Patrick's Day and Arts Festival parades in Galway city and to date have performed in over 20 countries.

Here is Macnas at the 2016 Halloween Parade:

Well known songs about Galway, well take your pick - Galway Girl, Galway Bay, Fields of Athenry, N17....

FAMOUS PEOPLE 

Let's start with Waterford.

Richard Mulcahy: Former commander-in-chief for the Irish Republican Army who fought in the 1916 Easter rising and would later go on to be Fine Gael leader. He served as Minister for Education from 1948 to 1951. 

Gilbert O'Sullivan: His real name is Raymond O'Sullivan but in the early 1970s this Waterford native clocked up many chart hits that included 'Nothing Rhymed', 'Alone Again (Naturally)', 'Get Down', 'Clair' and 'Matrimony'. He also managed to have hits in the USA. Now, aged 70, he is still recording.

Alfie Hale: Waterford has produced many fine soccer players. Names such as Davy Walsh, Paddy Coad, Peter Thomas, Jim Beglin, John O'Shea and Stephen Hunt spring to mind. Also notable was Hale, who made numerous apperances for Waterford United. He also had spells in the English League with Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers and Newport County. For the Republic of Ireland, he won 14 caps.

Inded Hale holds the record as the only player to score in four different League of Ireland decades - 50s, 60, 70s, 80s. 

Val Doonican: Michael Valentine Doonican found fame in the UK in the 1950s, carving out a career singing easy listening and novelty songs that included 'Walk Tall', 'Elusive Butterfly', 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' and 'Delaney's Donkey'. For over 20 years this 'rocking chair crooner' hosted his own show on the BBC. 

In 2011, he was given the 'Freedom of Waterford City.'  

Doonican died in 2015, aged 88.

Carrie Crowley: At the end of the 1990s and early 200s, Carrie Crowley was everywhere in RTÉ. After working on kids tv, she then got her own chat show, while she also hosted quiz and health programmes. Along with Ray D'Arcy, she co-presented a lifestyle show on Radio 1. It was no surprise that she was asked to helm the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest.along with Ronan Keating.

She did, however, turn down the opportunity to ring the Angelus bell on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Today, Crowley, who trained as an actor, can be seen in the soap Faiir City.  

John Treacy: From the village of Villierstown, Treacy made the headlines when in 1978 and '79, he won successive World Cross-Country championships, the latter triumph at Limerick Racecourse.

And then in the early hours of 13 August 1984, Irish time, the 27-year-old took took silver in the marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics.

Today, Treacy serves as CEO of the Irish Sports Council. 

Here RTÉ's Jimm Magee looks back at Treacy's LA exploits. 

 

Brendan Bowyer: When the Showbands were big in Ireland, Brendan Bowyer was a household name. He made his name with The Royal Showband and The Big Eight and subsequently took up residence in Las Vegas.

His biggest hit was 'The Hucklebuck'.

Now lets turn to Galway 

Walter Macken: A wrier and an actor, Macken is perhaps best known or his trilogy of Irish historical novels Seek the Fair Land, The Silent People and The Scorching Wind.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn: A native of Carna, she served as a Fianna Fáil TD from 1975 to 1997 and was European Commissioner from 2010 to 2014. On her election as Minister for the Gaeltacht in 1979, she became the first woman to hold such a post in the history of the State.

The Saw Doctors: Following on from Tuam reggae scene in the early 1980s came The Saw Doctors in 1986. Leo Moran and Davy Carton are still with the band after all this time. Those early days saw the Doctors play support to The Waterboys and fellow Tuam band The Stunning.

However the release of 'N17' and 'I Useta Lover' saw the band achieve success in their own right. In many respects they are an acquired taste, though songs such as 'Clare Island' and 'To Win Just Once' shows a versatility that keeps them going to this day.  

Nora Barnacle: On 16 June 1904, this Galway lady had a romantic liaison with one James Joyce. In time, Joyce chose the date as the setting for his novel Ulysses - an occurance that is now celebrated as Bloomsday.

Barnacle and Joyce certainly took their time before they eventually married in 1931. The couple went to live in Trieste, Paris and Zurich and had two children.

Jim Fahy: From 1974 to 2011, ''Jim' as he was known to most, was RTÉ's Western correspondent. On his retirement, President Michael D Higgins said: "Every single thing that happened in the West of Ireland, be it political or cultural or international, the first thing people would say to each other was, ‘have you contacted Jim Fahy?’ 

Throughout his long career Fahy interviewed Mother Teresa and won much praise for his documentary on the Irish-American victims of the Twin Tower attacks in 2001.

The golfing O'Connors

Christy Snr and Christy Jnr now both departed to the fairway in the sky served their sport with distinction.

The elder O'Connor, affectionately known as 'Himself' had 23 wins on the continent of Europe and played in eight Ryder Cups where he developed great partnership with one Peter Allis.

His best finish at a major was in 1958 when he tied for third at the British Open. 

In 2009 he was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009 in the Veterans category.

O'Connor Jnr is perhaps best remembered for the shot he played at the last against Freddie Couples at the 1989 Ryder Cup. He holed out to win the hole as Europe went on to retain the trophy.

Like his Uncle, his best placing at a major was a tie for a third at the 1985 Open at Royal St George's.   

Live coverage of Galway v Waterford in the All-Ireland SHC final (3.30pm) on The Sunday Game Live from 2pm on RTÉ2, with live radio commentary on Sunday Sport, RTÉ Radio 1 from 2pm. 

Live blog from 1pm on RTE Sport Online and the News Now App.

Highlights of all the day's action on The Sunday Game on RTÉ2 from 9.30pm.